Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gas Street Lamps in the French Quarter, A Brief History

Blogger's Note: Try taking a step through the French Quarter without catching a glimpse of this iconic copper lamp and you will find it simply cannot be done.  This is the history of how the traditional gaslight came to the French Quarter.

From the Storyville District Nola website:

"Under the early French and Spanish dominion no attempt whatsoever was made to light New Orleans, but all persons in the streets at night were required to carry lanterns to prevent collisions and accidents.  The first city lighting was done in 1792, when Governer Carondelet established eighty street lamps.  In 1824, the American Theater was lit with gas by its owner, Mr. James Caldwell, this being the first time that gas was seen in New Orleans.  Encouraged by his success, Mr. Caldwell, in 1834, organized the New Orleans Gas Light and Banking Company, with a capital of $300,000, which was subsequently increased to $600,000 in a charter with the City of New Orleans. 

The charter gave the city the right to purchase the works at the end of forty years.  When the charter expired, in 1875, a consolidation was effected with a new company which had secured a charter from the Legislature and which was known as the Crescent City Company.  This would last fifty years, extending the charter to 1925.

The illumination of the streets was by gas until 1887, when a contract was made for lighting by electricity for the first, second, third, and fourth municipal districts.  On the expiration of the contract with the Jefferson City Gas Light Company in 1899, the sixth and seventh municipal districts were illuminated by electricity instead of gas as formerly' and the city in 1900 used electricity wholly."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cypress Harvesting in the South 1700-1960, Part 1

Blogger's Note:  It is of interest to Albany Woodworks as to where we source our wood from.  Over the last 37 years, Richard Woods, Owner and CEO of Albany Woodworks, has built a reputation of knowing that story.  The story of Louisiana Cypress.  This series explores the rich history of craftsmanship and the vibrant lumber industry of Louisiana, bringing the Albany Woodworks story full-circle.  Richard Woods realized what a valuable resource it could be, allowing his company  provide beautiful antique lumber without cutting down a single tree.   How the vast stands of virgin growth Louisiana Cypress began strong trade between a young Louisiana and the French-owned West Indies and grew to the top choice for the building the warehouses and factories at the heart of the Industrial Revolution on the East Coast of America.  This history is what Albany Woodworks brings to life with traditional craftsmanship from 100% reclaimed antique lumber.

(Above): Before chainsaws were invented, the logging industry in the United States & Canada was a seriously challenging occupation; there were forests full of monster trees and cutting them down was done by hand. 
From A history of the harvesting practice used in the cypress swamps of the southern United States, 1700-1960:

"Colonial Louisiana and other areas harbored vast reserves of one of the best species of wood in North America: the bald cypress.  Early residents of Louisiana struggled to meet the demand for the lumber.  Records show that ass early as 1699 French settlers at Biloxi were using cypress and selling it to merchants sailing for ports on the islands of Martinique, Santo Domingo, and Guadeloupe.  

(Above): Lumbermen sizing-up an old cypress tree prior to felling, circa 1911.

The market was not always strong over the 260 years it took to harvest the cypress stands.  Until the 1750s Louisiana settlers were the benefactors of a lucrative trade with the French West Indies.  That trade was put on hold as France lost control of Louisiana after the Seven Years War, also known as the French and Indian War, in 1763.  By 1779 Spain had gained control of the Florida Parishes and so controlled all of present day Louisiana.  The new Spanish subjects were not allowed trade with the French-owned West Indies.  

 (Above): Cypress logging, circa 1918.

The cypress markets were depressed, but by 1820 the sugarcane and cotton plantations and the New Orleans building boom had revitalized the domestic market.  Cypress would remain in high supply and demand until well after World War I.  The depression of the 1930s slowed the demand until World War II.  The war effort and strong economy of the fifties and sixties would see the last of the industrial cypress operations.

(Above): A view of a lumber camp in the swamps in 1888. The men in the background are standing on a raft. Note the five pirogues in the picture.

While the nature of its habitat made it seemingly impossible to ever exhaust, the vast cypress stands would eventually fall after a 260-year period that cypress was commercially logged can be divided into two periods: pre-steam power and post steam power."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Old Absinthe House, Where Legends Are Made


From the Rue Bourbon website:

"In the heart of the French Quarter, at the corner of Bourbon Street and Bienville, sits the stuff that legends are made of; The Old Absinthe House.

Many celebrities have been welcomed through our doors in the nearly two centuries since its opening; including Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Enrico Caruso, General Robert E Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra. Indeed, the walls throughout this incredible building are covered in the framed photographs of several famous patrons.

The building endures the name of Jean Lafitte's because of the rumored meeting of the Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson as they planned the victory of the battle of New Orleans on the second floor, now the newly-renovated Jean Lafitte's Bistro.

Built in 1806, this building was erected by Pedro Front and Francisco Juncadelia of Barcelona to house their importing firm. For the next forty years, trade continued in the bartering of food, tobacco and Spanish liquor ... a sort of early 'corner grocery.'

In 1815, the ground floor was converted into a saloon known as 'Aleix's Coffee House' and was run by the nephews of Senora Juncadelia. This coffee house was later rechristened 'The Absinthe Room' when mixologist Cayetano Ferrer created the famous Absinthe House Frappe there in 1874.

To this day, The Old Absinthe House still has the decorative marble fountains that were used to drip cool water over sugar cubes into glasses of Absinthe.  The original Old Absinthe House bar was to be destroyed at the start of Prohibition; as a powerful message to proprietors and others that Absinthe was to be abolished from the United States and would not be tolerated.

Fortunately, the bar was removed from the Absinthe House and moved under cover of darkness to a warehouse on Bourbon street in order to save it.  This warehouse became known as 'The Absinthe House Bar' until the actual bar was returned to its home in early 2004.  It is now known as the Mango, Mango daiquiri shop.

The bar is again part of this historical building after a 3 million dollar renovation returning it to its turn-of-the-century splendor.  It is now operated by Tony Moran, himself the son of a New Orleans legend 'Diamond Jim' Moran.  The building now houses Tony Moran's Restaurant and Jean Lafitte Bistro,  and the front room is still the tavern known as Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House."

Biscuits & Gravy, Breakfast of Champions

Blogger's Note: Biscuits and Gravy were something this blogger's mama introduced early in life.  The warm buttery crannies soak up the rich and saucy gravy in a heavenly concoction that has warmed the bellies of soldiers and patriots alike through our nation's history.  Louisiana has two variations uniquely its own: Biscuits & Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits & Red-Eye Gravy.  The latter was said to be invented by a cook in Stonewall Jackson's army as a hangover cure.  However, when it comes to this American classic, we tend to think of a traditional sausage gravy over homemade biscuits, recipe included.  Enjoy!

(Above): Biscuits and Gravy have filled stomachs through hard times in history when supplies were scarce.

From the Cooking With Mama website:

"Early European settlers in the United States brought with them a simple and easy style of cooking. After the American War of Independence a meal emerged for people wanting breakfast. The supplies were very short and it had to be cheap. So came the biscuits and gravy. It was prepared in many different ways at first. There was the scrambled eggs fried in bacon grease and adding flour to it. Boiling a brown gravy mix and adding beaten eggs. There was also a concoction called chipped beef with gravy."

(Above): Real, old-fashioned sausage gravy.

From the Jim Long's Columns website:

"Pigs were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1608, but had actually arrived on the continent a full century earlier with the first Spanish explorers. As the Spaniards looked for gold, some of those early hogs went feral in Florida and Georgia and became the early razorback hogs of the South. Because wild hogs were plentiful, and a pest, and domestic hogs became a staple on Southern farms, sausage became a base for a variety of foods, but most especially, sausage gravy. You couldn’t find a meal better than sausage gravy on biscuits to feed a large family and it became a staple of poor food all across the South and into the Midwest.

Biscuits and gravy can vary greatly by region. Head down to into Mississippi and you’ll encounter tomato gravy. It likely shows the influence of the early French in the region before the Louisiana Purchase. It requires approximately 4 tablespoons of bacon drippings, 4 tablespoons of flour, 2 large chopped-up tomatoes and about 2 cups of cold water. Once made, some cooks add crumbled bacon before spreading it over hot buttermilk biscuits.

If you head down south into Arkansas, into Mississippi and northern Louisiana, you’ll encounter a completely different gravy served on biscuits - chocolate gravy. This is a truly Southern dish served as both a breakfast meal or sometimes served as a dessert in the evening. Chocolate gravy is made with 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour, 1 level teaspoon of cocoa and a cup and a half of water. Once that’s boiled together and thickened, a touch of vanilla is added. It’s typically served over lavishly-buttered buttermilk biscuits.

The traditional red-eye gravy was born in the 1840s on a battlefield. A drunken, hung-over cook for General Andrew Jackson, poured hot coffee into ham juices and brownings from frying the ham and served it up on biscuits without having added flour to thicken it. Soon cooks all across the South were cooking up "The General's red-eye gravy."

(Above): A plate of traditional style Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.

Old Fashioned Biscuits and Gravy Recipe
1 pound sausage (mild or hot)
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and lots of black pepper
2 to 3 cups milk

Crumble the raw sausage in a hot cast iron frying pan. Fry the sausage until there is no pink left. Add flour 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring quickly until a paste forms. Then add milk, 1 cup at a time. Stir briskly and cook the mixture until it thickens. Then pour it over fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits, split in half, buttered or not.

(Above): Drop biscuits or rolled, your choice!

And the biscuits? You can buy those canned, frozen, instant or bakery-made but the old-fashioned biscuit is as follows:

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lard or other shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. With your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. Pour in the chilled buttermilk and stir to mix. Turn dough onto floured surface, dust with flour and fold dough over on itself 4 or 5 times. Roll out with a rolling pin or quart fruit jar until the dough is about an inch thick. Cut out biscuits with 2-inch cutter and place biscuits on a baking sheet so the biscuits are just touching. Bake until golden and fluffy, about 15-20 minutes. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Historic JAX Brewery Building

From the JAX Brewery website:
"Jackson Brewery, commonly known as JAX Brewery by locals, is a building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, containing shops and restaurants and primarily frequented by tourists. Constructed in 1891, it became the central brewery for JAX Beer in 1956, after the JAX Brewing Company of Jacksonville, FL, closed its doors and Jackson purchased its copyrights. 

In the 1960s it became the 10th-largest brewery in the country. But in the 1970s, the company owning the brewery went bankrupt, and in the 1980s the building was purchased and turned into space for shops and restaurants.

Over 110 years old, and long since the days of being a brew house, The Shops at Jax Brewery has endured as a great landmark in the City of New Orleans. Designed and constructed by German-born and educated architect Dietrich Einsiedel in 1891, the Brewery was the largest independent brewery in the south and the tenth largest single-plant brewery in the country. Today the building is no longer a brewery, but the view is still intoxicating.  

Enjoy breathtaking views of the French Quarter at Jax Brewery, and a taste of New Orleans history and shopping."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Curiosity That is Pagoda House, New Orleans, Louisiana

Blogger's Note:  There are many unique and wonderful architectural moments in New Orleans, but one of this blogger's favorites is the "Pagoda House" on Napoleon Avenue.  Quite of a mystery to unravel as to whom the original owner might be as well as the inspiration to reference traditional Japanese architecture.


(Above): 2037 Napoleon Avenue, is Pagoda House, built in 1904. Listed as the home of Raoul Vallon designed by Frank P Gravelt & Co Limited, costing over $15,000 or more to construct in the early 1900s. The Vallons owned the home until 1925.

From New Orleans Architecture: Jefferson City By Friends of the Cabildo:

"2037 Napoleon, corner of  S. Saratoga, and Danneel,.  This curious but striking residence may be atypical in this area, but there is ample logic in its concept of large, double, pagoda-like overhangs, which provide protection from the sun and rain of our climate.  

On August 31, 1904, the Daily States pointed out that the unique structure was also a curiosity in its day:

Among the numerous frame residences erected during the past twelve months, that of Raoul Vallon, designed by Frank P. Gravely & Co. Limited located at Napoleon avenue and Saratoga street, is one of the most costly, and by far the most unique and picturesque in design.  While the architects executed the actual design it was along the line of the ideas suggested by Mr. Vallon.  

In design the building bears a close resemblance to the Japanese architecture, the eaves of the roof and the gallery sheds having the pagoda-like upturn at the corners, and the general appearance otherwise being much after the appearance of Japanese or Chinese structures.  It is said also, that the building is being fitted throughout in Japanese furniture, draperies, etc.  This beautiful and novel dwelling cost to complete $15,000 or more.  

#funfact It has the distinction of being the only one of the kind in the city, there is not another residence in this section which is even a near approach to it in appearance.  The Vallon family owned the house until 1925."

Iron Horses of the French Quarter

Blogger's Note: Part of the charm and history of the French Quarter, the cast iron horse head hitching posts are a favorite of tourists and locals alike.  It's one of those quirks of the Crescent City that can go unnoticed, but once you notice one, you will start seeing them everywhere!  Littered throughout the French Quarter and the oldest parts of the Garden District, where streets are still lined with cobblestones.  Enjoy!

When you go to town, turning off your car's ignition is the main thing to do after parking. But in the days of real horsepower, tying up to an iron ring or a hitching post was standard procedure.  These horse head hitching post used to line the streets in Victorian days , usually bolted to a marble piece with a step next to it for ladies and children to have an easier time getting up on the horse that
is stationed at this post.

From Horsing Around: 19th Century Cast Iron Hitching Posts edited by W. Douglas McCombs:
"Selection of a hitching post was an act of personal expression, but one limited to the forms available through the foundries and retailers who sold them, like hardware businesses and agricultural equipment suppliers.  Certain forms were more common than others.  The horse head post ... appear[s] most frequently in catalogs.  The variety of [this] design ... speaks to the ... popularity and to the various pattern carvers who took basic forms and personalized them.   

The horse head was the most common motif.  The variety of horse forms is plentiful, ranging from realistic to stylized and even whimsical.  Some examples are statuesque, like chess pieces, while others have the feeling of movement with flowing manes, open mouths, and expressive faces." 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Try These Traditional Natchitoches Meat Pies, Recipe Included!

Natchitoches, Louisiana, is the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase and is home to the oldest and largest Creole settlement outside of New Orleans. Pronounced NACK-id-dush, it is also home of the famous Natchitoches Meat Pie, a popular street food since the late 1700's. A half-moon shape of pastry crust is filled with a spicy blend of beef and pork then fried golden and crispy. Seriously addictive, Natchitoches Meat Pies are a true Louisiana food. 
Recipe from The Kitchen Mirror website:

Meat Pie Filling

1 pound ground meat
1 pound ground pork meat
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 pod garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste
1 tablespoon flour

Melt shortening in heavy pot. Add meat. Cook until pink is gone. Add vegetables and season to taste. (Season well, as meat will lose seasoning during frying.) When meat is completely done and vegetables glazed, remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour.

Meat Pie Crust

1 quart flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening + 1 T
1 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Beat egg and add to milk. Work gradually into dry ingredients until proper consistency to roll. Break into small pieces and roll very thin. Cut into rounds using a saucer as a guide. Or you can get some fancy little meat pie cutters in various shapes.

To assemble:

Place a large tablespoon of prepared meat along edge and halfway in the center of round dough. Fold the other half over, making edges meet and seal with water, crimp edges with a fork. Drop in deep fat and cook until golden brown. Drain and serve hot. Makes approximately 18.

 (Above): Freshly made Natchitoches Meat Pies ready to fry.

Meat pies may be frozen before cooking. After assembly, arrange pies on a cookie sheet and freeze, once frozen remove from cookie sheet and store in freezer bags until ready to fry. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

How To Eat Sugarcane: Memories From The Deep South

Blogger's Note:  This blogger had their first Sugarcane at the Old Farmer's Day festival at around age eight.  The outside looks of the rugged stalks belied the juicy delicious syrup contained within.  This time of year is Sugarcane harvesting time in Southern Louisiana, let's take a moment to "stop and taste the sugar".

(Above): Cut stalks of Sugarcane from the harvest. 

From the LSUAg Center website: 

"Sugarcane has been an integral part of the south Louisiana economy and culture for more than 200 years. When Jesuit priests first brought sugarcane into south Louisiana in 1751, little did they know that the foundation was being laid for an industry that now contributes $2 billion to the Louisiana economy.

The first successful sugar crop used to produce raw sugar was that of Etienne de Bore. In 1795, de Bore succeeded in making sugar that was valued at $12,000. A thriving sugar industry soon replaced the cultivation of indigo in Louisiana. The first sugarcane varieties grown in Louisiana were 'Creole,' from which Etienne De Bore first granulated sugar, 'Otaheite,' and later 'Louisiana Striped,' 'Louisiana Purple' and 'D74.' These varieties were called the 'Noble' canes and were characterized by a large stalk diameter, low fiber content and a sucrose content satisfactory for sugar production under Louisiana conditions.

Today, Louisiana sugarcane yields range from 30 to 50 tons per acre, with recoveries ranging from 180 to 240 pounds of sugar produced from each ton of cane. These sugar levels rival yields obtained in the more tropical sugarcane-growing regions. That's why sugar continues to be a major part of the south Louisiana economy."

How to Eat Sugar Cane

From the WikiHow website:

Eat a Sugar Cane Step 1.jpg

Step 1 Take out a sharp knife and a cutting board.

Eat a Sugar Cane Step 2.jpg

Step 2 Cut the stalk into sections between the segments, as the end of each segment is woody and not edible.

Eat a Sugar Cane Step 3.jpg

Step 3 Start from the top and slowly and carefully cut into it and slice down to the bottom to remove the outer, woody layer.
Eat a Sugar Cane Step 4.jpg

Step 4 If you look in the middle of it, you will see the fibrous veins; that is where the sweet sugar sap will be.
Dig into it and pull some of the fibrous material out. 
Eat a Sugar Cane Step 5.jpg

Step 5 Chew it like gum to squeeze out the sugary sap. Spit out the fiber after it is no longer sweet.

Enjoy!  Sugarcane has been a tasty treat for generations of children throughout the South.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Legend of Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana


(Above): A scenic view of Bayou Teche.

From the FOX8 News website:  

Heart of Louisiana: The Beauty of Bayou Teche, written by: Dave McNamara, Heart of Louisiana

"NEW ORLEANS, La. - If you spend any time in South Louisiana, you've been near a bayou. But you get an entirely different experience if you can paddle a bayou in a canoe or kayak. Tonight, FOX 8's Dave McNamara takes us to St. Martin Parish for a trip down the state's longest bayou in the 'Heart of Louisiana'.

(Above): Bayou Teche looks very much the same as it did back in the 1800s.  Painting by artist Meyer Straus (1831–1905) Bayou Teche c. 1870. Oil on canvas 30 x 60 inches. 
'The same meaning that the Mississippi has to the New Orleans area or Baton Rouge, Bayou Teche has to the Acadians,' said tour guide Cory Werk. A funny thing happened to Werk, who is originally from California. The political science major was planning on law school. But he changed course, moved to South Louisiana, bought some kayaks and started offering tours through his 'Bayou Teche experience.' 'My mother's from Baton Rouge, she's an LSU grad, and my grandmother's from Breaux Bridge,' Werk said. 'So I have deep and long-standing ties in this area.' Werk's future is now linked to Bayou Teche, a 135-mile-long scenic bayou that starts at Port Barre and snakes its way through Cajun country on the way to the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City.

(Above): Bayou Teche, the State of Louisiana's longest bayou.

If you drive through Southwest Louisiana, you've likely crossed it. But the bayou is hardly noticeable as you speed along Interstate 10. The beauty is on the water. 'Whether it's giant live oaks that are towering above on the bayou or the large cypress trees that you can weave in and out of with your kayak in the swamp, there's no place in the world that has these opportunities that Acadiana offers,' Werk said. 'Bayou Teche gets its name from the Chitimacha Indians who fished, hunted and lived along the waterway centuries ago. And they have a story about how the bayou got came to be. 'Teche' is the Chitamacha word for 'snake.'

(Above): The monument which tells the Legend of Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

A bayou-side monument in Breaux Bridge tells the legend of how the Chitimacha fought a huge snake 'They came together and they fought by hand to kill this snake,' said Nicole Patin, one of the organizers of Tour du Teche, a three-day race down the full length of the bayou. 'And where the snake lay and decomposed is actually where the bayou lies today.'

(Above): A monument to the legend of how the 125-mile long Bayou Teche was formed.

From The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana website: 

The Legend of Bayou Teche 

"Many years ago, in the days of the Tribe's strength, there was a huge and venomous snake. This snake was so large, and so long, that its size was not measured in feet, but in miles. This enormous snake had been an enemy of the Chitimacha for many years, because of its  destruction to many of their ways of life. One day, the Chitimacha chief called together his warriors, and had them prepare themselves for a battle with their enemy. In those days, there were no guns that could be used to kill this snake. All they had were clubs and bows and arrows, with arrowheads made of large bones from the garfish.

(Above): A close up of the monument shows markings commemorating the founding of several old towns along the bayou.

Of course, a snake over ten miles long could not be instantly killed. The warriors fought courageously to kill the enemy, but the snake fought just as hard to survive. As the beast turned and twisted in the last few days of a slow death, it broadened, curved and deepened the place wherein his huge body lay. The Bayou Teche is proof of the exact position into which this enemy placed himself when overcome by the Chitimacha warriors."   

The Bayou Teche, 'Teche' meaning 'snake', is today proof of the exact position into which this enemy placed himself when overcome by the Chitimachas in the days of their strength

(Above): Acadian farmstead situated along the bank of Bayou Teche.

From U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset National Map, 2011:
The Science Behind the Legend

"The Bayou Teche is a 125-mile-long  waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River's main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. Through a natural process known as deltaic switching, the river's deposits of silt and sediment cause the Mississippi to change its course every thousand years or so."

Myth or legend ... you decide.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Study of Architectural Life, Part 1

Blogger's Note: The Louisiana Speaks: Pattern Book is an amazing resource that we recently discovered.  In this series we will explore selections from pages which intimately discuss the styles of Louisiana architecture, and the sound environmental reasoning behind them.  With this detailed accounting of what is traditional, it is apt that it would also include ways to modernize a structure while retaining the archetype.  Participants in the creation of the Pattern Book repeatedly stressed the importance of preserving the local culture and social traditions and the particular aspects of house and community design essentials to doing so.  With the interest of highlighting some of this style guide's content, we hope to encourage authentic rebuilding and awaken a desire to preserve historic places, a continuation of what southern architecture has to offer.  The Pattern Book is available for free download in its entirety on the Louisiana Recovery Authority website.  Download Here

"The Purpose of the Pattern Book
The Pattern Book contains patterns and techniques for building housing, neighborhoods, and towns at a greatly accelerated pace while remaining true to the values and traditions of the people of Louisiana.  These traditions provide guidance for rebuilding in harmony with the state's natural environment and climate in the design and construction of environmentally responsible houses that incorporate many of the traditional architectural features of the region.

Architectural Patterns
The Pattern Book identifies those patterns among Louisiana house and building types that are important to maintain in the rebuilding process.  Individual builders and homeowners, as well as production house builders and developers will find the architectural patterns presented in this section of the Pattern Book useful as they rebuild the fabric of Louisiana's neighborhoods and towns.

The Influence of Climate on Architecture
The unique climate and geography of Louisiana play an important role in the daily life of its residents.  The intense heat and humidity, extended summers, short winters, and prevalent gulf breezes provide a backdrop to the lifestyles and traditions of South Louisiana.  Over time, builders, designers, and home owners have developed architecture and landscape patterns that are a direct response to the extreme climate of the region.

Vernacular architecture from all regions of South Louisiana a share the pursuit of providing relief from the sun and rain while still capturing as many breezes as possible.  Generously scaled porches, tall ceilings, full-height windows, shade gardens, porch fans, and wood shutters are all elements that distinguish the traditional architecture of South Louisiana from elsewhere in the the country.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Give Us a Like & Help Us Change Lives


Give Us a Like & Help Us Change Lives with a Donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. In honor of Veterans Day, from now until midnight tomorrow (11/11/2014), Albany Woodworks will make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project® based on your likes! The more likes we receive, the more we are able to give! #woundedwarriorproject #changelives

Like our Facebook page and help change lives: Click Here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guess Who Is Ready For Their Close Up!

Resident mill pup Shadow is the star of an upcoming print ad campaign for Albany Woodworks.

#funfact Shadow is a lab mix we rescued a little over 2 years ago. She loves meeting new people, especially kids; chasing squirrels and nice long walks in the fields behind the mill. What a sweet face. #rescuedog #mansbestfriend #adopt

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes, Do You Know The Difference?

Blogger's Note:  With the holidays right around the corner, let's investigate one of the South's favorite tubers, the sweet potato and what sets it apart from the traditional yam.

(Above): A true yam (left) compared to an orange-fleshed sweet potato (right).

"What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?  Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms, flowering plants, they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot, a plant having one embryonic seed leaf, and from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot, a plant having two embryonic seed leaves, and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family.

(Above): An example of African yams.

Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. Native to Africa and Asia, yams vary in size from that of a small potato to a record 130 pounds (as of 1999). There are over 600 varieties of yams and 95% of these crops are grown in Africa. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier. 

(Above): These are Louisiana Sweet Potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes
The many varieties of sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are members of the morning glory family, Convolvulacea. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red. Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States.

Why the confusion?
In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Are Shrimp Boots White and Other Louisiana Traditions

Blogger's Note: So some years at Jazz Fest it rains a lot and gets muddy, mucky and nasty. The footwear that will take you through the gross mess the best is often a good pair of rubber boots. Shrimp boots are a local tradition folks have been wearing for years and there are plenty of local places that carry them.  Here is the true story behind white rubber boots as Southern footwear, from the swamp to the fair grounds.

White shrimp boots are a Louisiana staple. Often referred to as “Cocodrie Converse” or “Swamp Nikes”, these popular boots are more of a symbol of Louisiana than merely the boot shape.  Shrimp, in Louisiana, can be viewed as a representation of culture because the image of shrimp or the eating of shrimp can evoke attachments to heritage, history, tradition, and authenticity.  For example, many seafood vendors wear the white rubber boots known as “shrimp boots” for function; to keep one's feet dry, and because the boots are tied to an image of the authentic shrimper.

Shrimp, also takes on its own set of symbolic meanings and connotations that are linked more to what it means to buy them and the tradition more so than just the food itself.

But why are shrimp boots white?  One common answer is that the white rubber will not leave marks on a boat's deck.  Another is because of the hot sun most shrimpers do wear them offshore on their boats. The sun can be very intense on the gulf waters, and white reflects the sun much better than any other color.  A good choice for shrimpers who also gator hunt at night with others, the toes of white boots are noticeable in the dark,  not to be confused with a gators mouth like black boots.  Black boots can easily resemble a gators mouth in the dark.